Most people can list about a dozen "big things" in their lives. Once you have written them down, think about the questions below:

■ What small things preceded and followed each event? List all the "one things" that led up to that one big thing. Were they a series of interactions, a series of choices and behaviors, or people you associated with?

■ What pattern do you see? Are the significant events largely positive? Are they growth oriented? Or are they largely negative events that caused you pain? What does this indicate about how intentional you are? Who or what was most intentional leading up to each big thing?

■ How has your life changed as a result of each event?

Now extend your time line into the future. What is the next significant thing you are hoping for in the future? Are you working toward something that will result in a positive "big thing" in your life? Or are you just letting things happen? Your future will become reality only if today you remain focused on the most important next one thing.

For example, if the next important stop on your time line is to successfully raise your teenage daughter, then it is essential that you have a game plan to make that goal a reality. Start by making a list of all the "one things" you can think of that will be required of you to raise your daughter well.

I need
■ to deal with a bad attitude about my ex-spouse, my daughter's father.

■ I need to establish expectations and routines for myself.

■ I need to pray for my daughter daily.

■ I need to be more confident when I make a decision and not give in so easily to her demands.

■ I need to hold my daughter accountable for her actions and not respond out of guilt.

■ I need to monitor her relationships and get to know her friends better.

■ I need to encourage her strengths.

■ I need to stop criticizing her so much.

Even though the list may get long and feel pretty overwhelming to you, the power of doing the next right one thing is the only path to success. Remember, healthy change will occur only when the power of one thing is used. By doing the first right one thing followed by the next one thing until each is completed or has become a habit, you almost guarantee yourself success in what matters most.

When I look across my time line, I identify the following as the most significant moments in my adult life: my marriage to Donna, the birth of our children, the decision we made to move from Michigan to Arizona, the decision I made to finish my graduate work and go on for a doctorate, my decision in 1988 to write my first book, and the decision in 1990 to start a radio program to help families. I realize that each of these big moments represents a move or a change, something new. But each of these events in my life was preceded by many small "one things."

Why One Thing Really Does Make a Difference

We can only really live today one thing at a time—one thought, one idea, one relationship, one phone call at a time. Matt hew 6:34 (NLT) tells us, "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." We can't rush ahead; we can't lag behind. So how does change happen? Think of it this way:

One thing done once is an experience.

One thing done twice has your attention.

One thing done often is a pursuit.

One thing done always is a habit.

It has been said that our choices become our habits and our habits become our character. Our choices add up and determine the overall quality of our lives.

As you learn to choose one small change and focus on it one day at a time, your life is going to get better. After you have made the first thing a habit and experienced the satisfaction of having achieved a small but significant milestone, you can tackle one more thing with energy and confidence.

I've seen it happen—in my own life and in the lives of others—doing just one thing differently can produce significant and lasting changes for the better.